Suicide bomber kills at least 44 in Pakistan mosque
A suicide bomber has hit a crowded mosque at a police compound in Pakistan, collapsing the roof and killing at least 44 people and injuring more than 150 others, officials said.
Most of the victims were police officers.
It was not clear how the bomber managed to penetrate the walled compound housing the police headquarters in the northwestern city of Peshawar, itself in a high-security zone with other government buildings.
Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter.
The militant group’s main spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Predominantly Sunni Pakistan has seen a surge in militant attacks since November, when the Pakistani Taliban ended their ceasefire with government forces.
The attack on a Sunni mosque on Monday was one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in years.
More than 300 worshipers were praying inside the mosque and more were approaching when the gunman detonated his explosive vest.
According to Zafar Khan, a police officer, many were injured when the roof collapsed and rescuers had to clear piles of rubble to reach worshipers still trapped under the rubble.
Meena Gul, who was at the mosque when the bomb went off, said he didn’t know how he survived unharmed.
The 38-year-old police officer said he heard screams and screams after the blast.
Police officer Siddique Khan said the death toll rose to at least 44, while more than 150 people were injured.
He said the bomber blew itself up among the faithful.
Peshawar Police Chief Ijaz Khan said at least 150 were injured.
A nearby hospital listed many of the wounded in critical condition, stoking fears the death toll could be rising.
Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Pakistani Taliban have a strong presence, and the city has frequently been the scene of militant attacks.
The militant group, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, has led an insurgency in Pakistan for the past 15 years.
It is calling for stricter enforcement of Islamic law, the release of its members held in government custody and a reduction in the Pakistani military presence in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which it has long used as a base.
The group is separate from but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 when US and NATO troops withdrew from the country after 20 years of war.
The government’s ceasefire with the TTP ended as Pakistan was still grappling with unprecedented floods that killed 1,739 people, destroyed more than two million homes and at one point inundated a third of the country.
Mohmand of the militant organization said a militant carried out the attack to avenge the assassination of Abdul Wali, widely known as Omar Khalid Khurasani, who was killed in August 2022 in neighboring Afghan province of Paktika.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the bombing, promised “tight action” against those behind it and ordered the authorities to provide the victims with the best possible medical treatment.
Mr. Sharif traveled to Peshawar and visited the wounded. His office said he would receive a briefing on the security situation in the northwest.
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan called the attack a “terrorist suicide attack”.
He tweeted: “My prayers and condolences go out to the families of the victims. It is imperative that we improve our intelligence and properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”
Cash-strapped Pakistan is facing a severe economic crisis and is seeking a crucial $1.1 billion installment from the International Monetary Fund – part of its $6 billion bailout package – to avoid a default.
Talks with the IMF about reviving the rescue package have stalled in recent months.
Mr Sharif’s government came to power in April after Mr Khan was ousted in a vote of no confidence in Parliament. Mr Khan has since campaigned for a snap election, claiming his ouster was illegal and part of a US-backed conspiracy. Washington and Mr Sharif reject Mr Khan’s claims.